Making headlines through the barrage of Republican primary monotony (lovingly dubbed “endless suffrage” by John Stewart) and health care deliberations, the opening salvos were fired in what will most likely become a protracted budget scuffle on Capitol Hill. The federal government continues operating through stopgap measures. The latest was reached just before Christmas, averting a government shut down and allowing the nation’s deficit deepening policy to function through the remainder of the 2012 fiscal year. It was the fifth such last minute agreement of 2011.
Further highlighting an already blindingly bright partisan divide among Washington lawmakers was a pair of votes on alternative budget plans. In February the president’s final budget proposal of his current term was put down without a single vote of approval, even among his own party (21 representatives decided to sit this one out). The Republicans “Path to Prosperity” passed the house they currently control despite ten of their brethren voting against it.
The current party lines in the sand took center stage once again as health insurance, “entitlements”, and defense spending among a host of other issues varied widely between the two plans. A third alternative engineered by a small subsection of congressional members from both parties actually seeking to compromise and find some common ground was also soundly defeated. The plan’s author’s original coalition of around 100 members quickly dwindled to 38 by voting time. Special interests and lobbyists reminded Americans who truly controls a political process increasingly overwhelmed by the Supreme Court defined 1st Amendment right of money equaling speech in the name of pocketing politicians.
Rhetoric, Blather and Political Grandstanding
Making grandiose promises in an election year is nothing new. The first Bush’s most famous quote is still held up as the most recent gold standard despite the necessity of what he did. GOP representatives forcing an early vote on a no fly budget was a blatant attempt to embarrass the incumbent chief executive. A devolving two party process will only get uglier as November nears and the schisms between the left and right of a populace seeking a return to prosperity deepen.
The realities of federal politics will shape up over the coming months as something closer to center hopefully emerges from members of Congress seeking to prove to voters that they aren’t a kettle of crooks pandering to those who pay for their campaigns before November. Fiscal year 2013 begins October 1 and it’s anyone’s guess whether or not a suitable compromise will be found. At this point the Senate has decided against even voting on any budget plans in their current incarnation.
Tax Cuts & Trickle-Down Economics
President Obama began firing back in the first break from a strategy based on sitting back while the fragmented Republican Party continued tearing itself to pieces. Taking the offensive against the budget pushed through the House by Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Obama spoke strongly against a proposed return to Reaganesque fiscal policy. “Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.” Gutting health care, education and other domestic programs for the sake of a military that already outspends the next ten largest industrialized nations to maintain control of an overstretched global empire led the president to words that have been mocked by the GOP and their supporters in the days since. Calling the plan “thinly veiled Social Darwinism” Obama went on to warn against further income inequality in a nation already teetering toward social unrest.
The latest version of trickle-down economics, or the financial theory championed by the late President Reagan that believed by cutting taxes on the wealthy prosperity will “trickle-down” to the unwashed masses. Throughout the late 1980s Reaganomics was put into practice, resulting in an exploding federal deficit, a failed attempt to protect the nation from Soviet missiles with lasers from space and a financial nightmare that continues battering American citizens thirty years later.
The “Path to Prosperity” is the latest assault on the middle class and the services that allow the American nation to maintain the infrastructure supporting the world’s largest economy. Dropping the tax rate of the wealthy has failed to produce jobs or opportunity for the majority of Americans over the course of three decades. The average male worker now makes the same amount of money his counterpart did in 1968. The number of people living in poverty is at an all time (albeit there are a lot more people in the country) and the unemployment rate continues dropping in large part because it doesn’t include people who have simply given up.
Inconclusive Conclusions Looking Ahead
Conservatives continue arguing that taxes need to be cut in order to promote economic growth. Taxes on the wealthy already are on the lower end of the spectrum. 1963 the top earners were taxed at a rate of 91%. While this was unfairly high, the current rate of 35% and loopholes in the tax code allowing our richest citizens to pay far less and the largest corporate entities to pay little or nothing (some even receive a rebate) is low when averaged against the last century. This vast majority of this money isn’t handed to the poor. It supports the means that allow business to exist, creating the opportunity the wealthy complain about embracing while shipping industry overseas for larger profit margins.
The average American is struggling mightily and the level of interest in local and national elections while November is still eight months away only reinforces the idea that a lot is riding on the decisions of our elected officials over the coming years. Self declared moderates, progressives and conservatives are all seeking a way for the world’s great democratic experiment to right the ship while securing a worthwhile future for the generations to come. Compromise is needed and cooler heads must prevail.
It’s time for everyone to succeed or fail together, not to continue a system that allows a small percentage to enjoy a fabulously extravagant lifestyle built on the backs of a people who only want a fair wage for a fair day’s work. The budgets put forth by both sides leave much to be desired. The existence of every portion of society is irrevocably linked. Until a fair and reasonable solution is found the mudslinging, infighting and deadlock in Washington will continue grinding away at everything this nation built over the course of two and a half centuries. Real change at the expense of partisan ideals is needed now before it’s too late.